• Daniel (2)
• Eleven Madison Park
• Eleven Madison Park (2)
• Eleven Madison Park (3)
• Gabriel Kreuther
• Le Bernardin
• Per Se
• Per Se (2) (extended tasting)
• Per Se (3) (vegetarian tasting)
• Per Se (4)
• Senses (Warsaw, Poland)
I try to avoid carbs and sugar in my day-to-day life, so I never let myself have cereal for breakfast. I can’t tell you the last time I ate it, but I’m guessing it was in college, and it was probably something with “fiber” in the name so I could feel like an adult. But I secretly love cereal and was delighted to learn that Kellogg’s NYC opened in Times Square and that I’d need to eat a huge bowl of the stuff in the interest of reviewing it. The sacrifices I make, you know.
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If you’re from Columbus, Ohio, like I am, there are three things you’re proud of: the concrete corn field, The Black Keys, and Jeni’s ice cream. Maybe Marilyn Manson, too. But definitely the other three.
I usually have some shame when it comes to my carb intake, but I was in Ohio last week visiting my family and managed to eat Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams three times. I actually visited four of the locations with different friends but didn’t eat at the Bexley one because I’d literally just come from the Grandview one. This is how pervasive Jeni’s is in Columbus. When I’m there, it feels like I have to fatten myself up for the lonely Jeni’s-less winter that is NYC. Sure, there’s Jeni’s in the freezer at my neighborhood grocery store, Brooklyn Fare, but once you’ve had it fresh from the scoop, no old pint will do.
Luckily, a Jeni’s popup just opened up in NYC’s Gotham West Market yesterday and will be here until September. In Ohio, there are about twenty flavors to choose from, all so distinct and distinctly interesting, with gravels and sauces and all the accoutrements. Here in NYC, there are just seven flavors, but boy, are they doozies. I get Salty Caramel ice cream almost every visit in Ohio, and I’ve been dying to try the Pineapple Upside Down Cake Buttermilk Frozen Yogurt. It doesn’t seem like any of the toppings are available here, though, so you’ll need to head to Ohio to get the complete Jeni’s experience. Still, Gotham West Market is going to be seeing a lot of me this summer.
To whet your appetite, here are two of the Jeni’s sundaes I had while in Ohio last week:
Wildberry Lavender, Salty Caramel, and Brambleberry Crisp ice creams, with Salty Graham gravel and a waffle wedge. Up until this visit, I’d never gotten a gravel. The ice creams are so flavorful that I thought adding anything extra would detract from them, but a friend convinced me that the gravel is as important as the base at Jeni’s. I still think the ice creams are perfect on their own, but I absolutely loved the crunch and the added savoryness of the graham cracker/butter mixture that is the Salty Graham gravel. I usually don’t even like crunch in my ice cream, but I loved the way this crunch broke apart in my mouth and melted.
The same friend, upon hearing that I’d just gotten the gravel, informed me that the cherries at Jeni’s are the best cherries. Another friend informed me that no, it’s the whipped cream that’s so good. So on my next visit, the next day, I got the whole shebang. This was Bangkok Peanut, Brown Butter Almond Brittle, Ndali Estate Vanilla Bean ice creams with Salty Graham gravel, Salty Caramel sauce, whipped cream, a cherry, and a waffle wedge. I really wanted to try the Donut gravel but just couldn’t miss out on having the Salty Graham again. All of the toppings were great additions that somehow didn’t tame the flavors of the individual ice creams, but the cherry was the star. It was dark and tangy, familiar and yet also unlike any cherry I’ve ever had. So rich I would’ve been sick after two of them.
I don’t know what it is about Jeni’s ice creams. Reading one of her recipes, I’m always slightly weirded out by the cornstarch, corn syrup, and cream cheese in her bases. But if that’s what it takes to make ice cream so creamy and memorable you come back for it three times in the span of four days, I’m not going to argue. Visit Jeni’s @ Gotham West Market for more information and to see all the flavors being offered in NYC!
Here’s a secret about me: though my blog is called donuts4dinner, I find most donuts disappointing. The idea of them is always perfect in my head. They always look perfect when I see them. Even the sight of the simplest glazed donut makes me drool like a bulldog. But most of the time when I actually taste one, I realize that the idea of a donut is usually better than a donut itself. And then there’s Holey Donuts.
When they found me on Twitter and invited me to their grand opening here in NYC, I was super mega skeptical. Low-calorie, low-fat food is exactly the opposite of what I’m all about. But I’m all about donuts in any form and am always trying to find this perfect donut unicorn, so of course I planned to line up after work with stars in my eyes.
I went to the grand opening event with my friends Kim and Ash, where we were promised a box of free donuts to sample, a Holey Donuts tote bag covered in pictures of the most ridiculously good-looking donuts, and other gifts that were completely unnecessary, because they had me at “box of donuts”. The line was long, but the people surrounding us were nice, as people are wont to be where donuts–free or otherwise–are involved. When a woman wheeled out a waist-high container of juices for us to sample while we waited and accidentally spilled the entire thing, ice and all, all over the sidewalk, people came from all directions to help. And no one took advantage and stole extra purple carrot juice, as far as I could tell.
Halfway through our wait, a man from the store brought around a tray of these cinnamon bun middles, which were outrageously large for supposedly only being the middle of the bun, but we weren’t complaining. I think we all bit into them apprehensively, expecting the worst from something meant to be gluttonous but with all of the delicious fat and calories removed. And they were . . . The Best! So chewy and moist and with just the right amount of glaze to leave some to lick off our fingers when the bun itself was gone. We couldn’t believe they were just giving these things away. They ended up being Kim’s favorite thing we ate that day.
Once inside, we saw why the line was so long and slow-moving. The donuts were cooked plain and kept warm in heated racks behind the counter. When you ordered one, your pink-clad donut artist grabbed a plain donut and then topped it for you while you watched. Of course there was one large old white guy who left his place in line to yell at the girls and their manager for how long things were taking and then stomp out of the store in an old white guy huff once he was already inside and mere moments away from getting his free donuts, but for the most part, people were excited and happy to wait for fresh donuts. Sure, it took a little longer than your Dunkin Donuts, where they just grab a pre-frosted donut from a display case, but the experience of watching my donut being built was incredibly satisfying.
The counter was lined with vats of different kinds of filling,
which naturally I wanted to dunk my whole hand into a la Veruca Salt in the “Pure Imagination” scene of Willy Wonka.
They had little nozzles in front that the donut artist would shove into the center of the donut for filling. (I plan to buy one of these contraptions for my home and fill it with Trader Joe’s cookie butter.)
Next, she would bring the tray of donuts to vats of frosting and lightly press the top of the donut down into it. Then, she would scrape the donut against the side of the container to wipe most of the frosting off. This part, of course, physically hurt me to watch, but I guess that’s how they keep these things low-fat and low-calorie.
Then, she would press the frosted donut down into the topping of your choice. Finally, she would drizzle more frosting over the whole thing.
The results were BEAUTIFUL.
AND SO DELICIOUS.
Seriously, this was my unicorn donut. Where yeast donuts are so fluffy they collapse and cake donuts can be crumbly and dense, this was the perfect marriage of fluffy and substantial. What I loved most was that the donut base was more savory than sweet, adding some complexity to what could have been otherwise overtaken by the sugary frosting. I described it as a frosted dinner roll, but Ash and Kim said that didn’t do justice to what we all agreed were some of the best donuts we’d ever had.
I tried the Strawberry Frosted with pink sprinkles, a Raspberry Vanilla Truffle, and a Lemon Chunk Vanilla Frosted.
1) The strawberry was sheer fruity perfection, and I would’ve never guessed that I’d just seen half of the frosting scraped off the donut before my eyes; the proportions were exactly what I would have wanted.
2) The Raspberry Vanilla Truffle was delicious but my least-favourite of the three because of the filling. Usually the filling is the point of a donut, but this fruit filling was too chemical-y and fake-tasting for me. I couldn’t wait to finish the middle so I could go back to eating the edges made of just the regular batter, which is something I’ve never said in my life. That’s a testament to how much I liked the batter.
3) The Lemon Chunk Vanilla Frosted was my favorite, because the chunks of lemon topping started out crunchy but then immediately melted into this tangy tart liquid.
Although my friends and I agreed that these were some of the best donuts we’d ever tasted, we were all put off by the price, and that’s really the only complaint any of us had. At $21.95 for a box of 6, they come out to about $3.66 each (and don’t even look at the shipping charges if you’re ordering them online), which is way more expensive than even your most beloved NYC donut shops like Doughnut Plant. I guess sticking to your diet has its cost.
Red Hook is a neighborhood on the southwest coast of Brooklyn that’s accessible by cruise ship and nothing else. Okay, there’s one bus that goes there. And you could take the IKEA ferry if you were desperate. But for the most part, it’s meant for people who own cars, which excludes me, because I basically live in NYC just so I don’t have to ever drive.
But one weekend, my landlord/roommate/former co-worker/friend Jack had his parents’ car, so I did what any responsible food blogger would do and asked him to drive us to Red Hook to eat chocolate-covered key lime pie on a stick from Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies, which I learned about from my good friends at We Heart New York.
Hurricane Sandy shut down the original Steve’s location, but random key-lime-pie-associated signs still hang around the area and will confuse you as you try to make your way to the end of Van Dyke street to the new Steve’s bakery, which is basically a garage with a cash register. Ask the nice lady behind the counter for a Swingle and then take it outside to enjoy on one of Steve’s candy-colored picnic tables. And then continue enjoying it as you walk around the corner of the building to Valentino Park, where you’ll have sunset views of the Statue of Liberty.
I say “continue enjoying it”, because this thing is RICH and will take you an hour to eat if you’re a pansy like me. Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies is serious about its dedication to using freshly-squeezed key limes, and you can taste it in the lip-puckering Swingle filling. Of course the homemade graham cracker crust and the dark Belgian chocolate balance out the citrus, but balance or no, your belly is still being filled with butter and sweetened, condensed milk with every bite, and you can feel it. I mean that in the best way, obviously. Eating this little tart on a stick is like sticking the best parts of summer into your face.
When it comes to Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, it’s all about two flavors for me: Americone Dream and What a Cluster. I’ll dabble in Phish Food and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, and I was into Magic Brownies (despite the Dave Matthews Band association) because it tasted like my hometown favourite, Graeter’s Black Raspberry Chip. But my local Ben & Jerry’s spot was running low on the good stuff and running high on Late Night Snack and the Greek yogurt flavors the other night, so my boyfriend convinced me to try the limited edition Cannoli.
This picture is about as exciting as the ice cream itself was. The mascarpone base was a cross between vanilla bean and cake batter ice cream flavors that I actually wouldn’t mind tasting in more vanilla-based pints, especially with its end notes of butterscotch. The pastry hunks were very crunchy, and the chocolate they were dipped in had an alcoholic taste with a hint of cherry. Not bad, if a bit overpowering.
The disappointment was in the mascarpone swirl, which was only evident by a fleeting hint of graininess; we couldn’t detect a flavor difference between the base and the swirl. Either the swirl needed to be more Amazonian so the texture could make up for the lack of flavor excitement, or it could have been the traditional ricotta of a cannoli, or even better would have been something completely different, like the chocolate chips you see on a lot of Brooklyn cannolis.
I liked the overall effect of a slightly cheesy, elevated cake batter. I’ll just know to bring my own Nutella and M&Ms to the ice cream party next time.
Even if you’ve never visited NYC, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Dylan’s Candy Bar. It’s been featured on a couple of episodes of “Project Runway”, for one, and your mom friends have no doubt chattered away at you during soccer practice about how you just have to ride the ferris wheel at Toys”R”Us and then go to Dylan’s and let the kids fill up a bag with gummy brains, jujubes, and clodhoppers for a mere $12.99 a pound.
Going to Dylan’s is, in a word, hellish. The store is packed–both with candy and with kids–at all times, and the crowd is backed up to the door and blocking the stairs and singing along to the candy-themed music at the top of their lungs. But it’s also, in a word, amaaaaazing. Picture three floors, packed with the newest candy and also the impossible-to-find stuff from your parents’ childhoods. There’s a cafe serving cakes and milkshakes upstairs, a corral of bulk candy that takes up most of the main floor, and a bottom floor filled not only with packaged candy and homemade chocolates and fudge but also candy-related pillows, pajamas, rain boots, and more.
There are giant gummy bears and Swedish fish behind the cash registers, humongous lollipops sticking out from everywhere, and transparent staircases embedded with candy spelling out cheesy sayings. For someone who requested that her boyfriend recreate the candy room from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory for her for her last birthday, it’s pretty much my idea of heaven.
And really, the $12.99 per pound for bulk candy isn’t so bad. That’s basically what all candy stores in NYC charge, except they label their bins $3.99/¼ pound so you think you’re getting a deal. Dylan’s just says, “Yeah, our candy costs $12.99 a pound. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?” And the answer is “nothing”, because not only does Dylan’s have the most candy, it also has the best candy. Never have I ever had fresher circus peanuts than at Dylan’s.
On our visit this weekend, my boyfriend and I picked up a couple of bags of our bulk favourites for Halloween movie season (and then immediately devoured all of it in a 24-hour period) and these:
A s’mores Rice Krispies treat with graham cracker and chocolate between the layers. It was the softest, most marshmallowiest Rice Krispies treat I’ve ever had. It was also too big to fit into my mouth.
Creme brulee candy corn and blueberry cobbler candy corn. My boyfriend read about the blueberry candy corn just a few months ago while we were Googling the exact flavor of candy corn. It’s supposedly only available in Eastern Canada, so I immediately Facebooked every Eastern Canadian I know (one) and asked her to be on the lookout for me, secretly knowing that I’d spend the rest of my life blueberry-candy-corn-less. AND THEN I FOUND IT AT DYLAN’S.
The creme brulee tastes like vanilla frosting, and the blueberry cobbler really does taste like blueberries. The original candy corn flavor is still my favourite, but oh, the novelty.
Cadbury Screme Eggs. Finally Cadbury figured out that like Peeps, there’s a market for Creme Egg ridiculousness all year long. Screme Eggs taste just like Creme Eggs but have a green yolk instead of yellow. Finding these made me feel so stupid about the chocolate Cadbury Creme Eggs I’ve been hoarding in my freezer since Easter, and my BFF and I are now anxiously awaiting the Christmas and Valentine’s Day ones.
None of these specialty items seem to be available on the Dylan’s website, so please let me know if I can pick some up and ship them to you in Ohio or Louisiana or wherever. For a mere $15.99 per pound plus shipping.
When you’ve finished licking the fat of a whole rotisserie duck off your fingers at Momofuku Ssam Bar and your friends claim they couldn’t possibly even look at the dessert menu, the only thing to do is to say goodbye to all of them, walk one block in whatever direction they happen to not be going in, and then to quickly double back to Momofuku Milk Bar, the bakery offshoot of David Chang’s restaurant mini-empire.
The idea of Milk Bar chef Christina Tosi “living in Brooklyn, NY, with her three dogs and eating an unconscionable amount of raw cookie dough every day” like the Milk Bar website says kind of makes me want to vomit all over her cereal milk–wait, excuse me, Cereal Milk™–but you gotta figure she’s doing something right if even my friend in the backwoods of South Carolina is singing the praises of the Milk Bar cookbook.
Here’s a sampling of the offerings:
Just for the record, this tastes exactly like my aunt’s famous old-fashioned cream pie (or sugar pie, as it’s known elsewhere). Which is pretty much the reason any of us show up for family functions in Ohio. And as a regular weekend crack-cocaine abuser, I can tell you with great confidence that this is absolutely nothing like crack. But I can also tell you with great confidence that it takes something bigger than mere narcotics to draw a family together. It’s not as creamy and jiggly as my aunt’s, but I love how dense and lemon-bar-like the texture of this one is.
Everything’s better with corn. I could actually use a lot more corn flavor in this–my cookies don’t have to be super-sweet–but this is just what I want to bite into when I buy a cookie. Not some shelf-stale crunchy thing but a giant, flimsy, almost-uncooked-in-the-center butter-slab that I have to hold with both hands lest the middle simply droop right out of it.
All the flavor of caramelized cornflakes with none of the getting-stuck-in-your-teeth. Well, until you have them top it with more cornflakes. Then it’s your fault. But if you’re going to get one thing at Milk Bar, make it this.
If you want to buy me a cupcake (hint), make it one from Crumbs Bake Shop. Yes, it’s a chain. No, it’s not as fresh-from-the-oven as Magnolia Bakery. Yes, each one contains half your daily recommended caloric intake. That’s sort of the point. When I eat a cupcake, I want it to be an event.
Or just, you know, a Saturday afternoon when I’ve already eaten half of a baguette slathered with cheese and honey, dumplings, pizza, and Cadbury Eggs. Don’t judge.
My boyfriend can’t resist caramel, so he chose the dulce de leche with chocolate cake filled with caramel cream cheese frosting, covered in caramel cream cheese frosting, and zigzagged with caramel and chocolate. It did not disappoint.
I chose the Elvis for the peanut butter chips. I always get the Baba Booey for the peanut butter chips, even though I secretly prefer white cake to chocolate a million times over. So when I saw a cupcake with peanut butter chips AND white cake, it was
It’s soft banana cake injected with banana cream, frosted with peanut butter and banana buttercream, and rolled in peanut butter chips.
Peanut. Butter. Chips.
You know how I have a blog? That’s called donuts4dinner? Well, until a couple of weekends ago, I had never been to Doughnut Plant.
Dunkin Donuts, where the doughnuts come stale and in ultra-boring flavors and always seem way more delicious in my mind than they actually are? All the time.
Doughnut Plant, where the doughnuts are continuously made fresh while you watch and come in flavors you’ve never seen before and are actually more delicious than you expect? Never.
I won’t tell you all of the things my boyfriend and I had already consumed during our walk around Chinatown and the Lower East Side that day, but suffice it to say that we only needed one doughnut.
After much deliberation–coconut cream? cinnamon bun? tres leches?–
OH, CRAP. I just remembered the most amazing thing that happened while we were waiting in line. It was all quiet in the store, and behind us, I could hear this skinny blonde saying, “Should we get the tres leches?” to her companion. Only she was pronouncing it tray lesh. You guys, she thought it was French or something. Which is hilarious on its own, because what kind of hole are you living in that you’ve never heard of tres leches cake and can’t figure out that it has a Spanish pronunciation?
But MORE IMPORTANTLY, if leche is a word in French–and I’m not even sure it is–it sure doesn’t mean “milk” like it does in Spanish. So what did she think this doughnut tasted like?!
I swear I’m not trying to be elitist here. I’m just so interested in what was going through this girl’s mind and am dying to know if she was visiting from Ohio, because that’s the only place I can imagine tres leches cake still being unknown.
Anyway, we ultimately decided on the peanut butter and banana square doughnut, because
1) the squares are the biggest and most gluttonous,
2) jam filling is too healthy,
3) peanut butter is, like, my favourite thing in the world next to pizza.
It did not disappoint. This thing was fluffy, fresh, crunchy, sweet, nutty, banana-y, and huge. I have to be honest here and say that I don’t even really care about bananas, and I loved the banana cream. I’m not saying marshmallow cream wouldn’t have been better, but still. I also don’t like eating sweet things with nuts in them, because long after the sweet taste has vanished, I’m still finding savory nuts in my teeth, but these nuts were brittle and easily crunched, as if they were caramelized. And when I found them in my teeth later, it was a treat.
220 West 23rd Street
New York, NY 10011 (map)
I had my first taste of the famous/infamous Sprinkles cupcake last year in their homeland of California when my boyfriend’s sister brought an anniversary cupcake cake to his parents’ party. My cupcake was yellow cake with chocolate frosting and a pink block letter of questionable edibility that seemed to be made of sugar but refused to melt in my mouth.
Hardcore New Yorkers will stand loyally behind their Magnolia Bakery cupcakes, but I prefer the much more elaborate/gluttonous cupcakes from Crumbs Bake Shop and really only go to Magnolia for the banana pudding, so I was completely open to trying Sprinkles. And it was fine. Not life-changing. Not make-me-move-to-California-immediately-ing. But fine.
Well, my friend Kim got a coupon to try four free Sprinkles cupcakes at the first NYC location in the Upper East Side, because she is the princess of New York City, and she invited me to try them with her, knowing that I’d insist on buying a couple more. The employees are very nice, and the store is veeeeery cute, with the trademark Sprinkles dots decorating the outside, bright colors everywhere, and enough low tables with corresponding ottomans that we didn’t feel any pressure to move for the couple of hours we sat there.
The cupcakes were still fine.
My only complaint about Crumbs is that I feel like they spend so much time working on the filling and toppings that they forget to care about the cake; it usually tastes a couple of days old. My complaint about Magnolia is that it’s too simple; I can and have made their cupcakes at home myself. Sprinkles hits a nice balance between quality cake and quality toppings. The cake was fresh and moist, and the frostings and accoutrements were all creative. In the end, though, I missed the way Crumbs fills the cake with a dollop of frosting, and I missed the sheer size of the Crumbs cupcake. Sprinkles is good for people who want to splurge without bursting their bellies, and that ain’t me.
There’s one reason I might choose Sprinkles over Crumbs in the future, though. The drinking chocolate:
It’s bittersweet Belgian chocolate with a vanilla bean marshmallow, so rich and dense you feel like you’re wearing a mouthguard of hot chocolate when you’re finished with it. The marshmallow was so thick that it lasted almost to the end of the cup, making each sip creamy and flavorful.